Dark Empath: Is there Such a Thing?!
Malevolent partners and spouses who exhibit both dark personality traits and a surprising degree of empathy are an enigma. But are these ‘dark empaths’, as they are known, a new variant of pathological personality? Perhaps some people who fall into the hypothetical diagnostic construct of the dark tetrad, meaning they present with narcissism (NPD), psychopathy (ASPD), Machiavellianism, and/or sadism, are more empathic more of the time than other deviants. I argue that all dark tetrad personality types exhibit cognitive empathy and very little if any, emotional empathy, but not all choose to weaponize their empathy as much as others.
Unlike emotional or affective empathy, cognitive empathy does not confer the capacity to develop caring and loving relationships based on genuine interest and concern for others. What cognitive empathy creates is a veneer of emotional availability and an apparent interest in others. It affords a capacity to read social and emotional cues, which is useful for manipulating and exploiting others. In my opinion, cognitive empathy goes hand in hand with superficial charm. If you can read people you can charm them.
If dark empaths truly exist, they appear to be more tempered and are often more successful versions of malignant narcissists and primary and secondary psychopaths. We often think of dark personalities as cold and cunning, but in the case of a purported ‘dark empath’, the presentation is much more personable.
Those who have begun to study dark empaths notice their apparent interest in and concern for others. We do know that cognitive empathy without emotional empathy is very superficial. When combined with a dark triad or tetrad personality the weaponization of cognitive empathy can be very dangerous.
When a dark empath mirrors another person's empathy they seem utterly vulnerable and emotionally available. It is a facade.
This post is a reference for a Hacking Narcissism event with Dr. Nathalie Martinek.
Scapegoat Strength https://www.clubhouse.com/scapegoatstrength
Rise Like a Phoenix https://www.clubhouse.com/club/rise-like-a-phoenix
Hacking Narcissism https://www.clubhouse.com/club/hacking-narcissism
Grant Brenner (2020) Introducing the Dark Empath: New research identifies people high in both empathy and darkness. Psychology Today